Mark Zuckerberg shows the early meta-universal headphones Mirror Lake, Holocake

The company formerly known as Facebook will spent $ 10 billion this year on research and development of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, including computerized glasses or headphones.

On Monday, The goal CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed how much progress the social media company has made towards this goal, revealing many of the unfinished prototypes of the headphones that the company has built in its laboratories.

Zuckerberg has pledged the future of the social networking company he founded, based on virtual reality, which immerses users in a computer-generated world, and augmented reality, which superimposes computer-generated objects on the real world. Last year, the company changed its name to Meta to highlight the company’s new focus on the metaverse, a virtual world in which Zuckerberg imagines people will spend more and more time – ideally through advanced computer glasses.

If Zuckerberg manages to turn mainstream computers into a head, then Meta will have a new stream of revenue from hardware sales and control its own hardware platform, making it less susceptible to platform changes than other companies. For example, on her last win call, Meta said the latest privacy changes Apple made to the iPhone could it cost him $ 10 billion in lost revenue this yearas it hinders the company’s ability to target ads to the right audience.

The VR market is currently small and there are questions about how big it can become. Meta currently dominates headphone sales, with its current $ 299 Quest 2 accounting for 78% of all headphone sales in 2021, according to an IDC estimate. But there was only 11.2 million VR headsets were sold total during the year – far fewer than smartphones or computers.

Investors, meanwhile, are skeptical about diverting Meta from its core advertising and application business. Shares have fallen more than 53% so far in 2022 due to fears of rising costsslight growth forecasts, increased competition from TikTok and effects of The change in Apple’s iPhone privacy that has hampered mobile advertising.

Monday’s demonstration did little to allay those fears – Meta shares closed more than 4% on Tuesday, despite a wider rise in technology stocks. (U.S. markets closed on Monday for the June 16th holiday.)

What Zuckerberg showed

Meta is developing next-generation virtual reality displays designed to provide users with a realistic enough experience to feel like they are in the same room with other virtual people, Zuckerberg said during a demonstration. Current displays have low resolution, display distortion artifacts and cannot be worn for long periods of time.

“It won’t be long before we can create scenes with perfect fidelity,” Zuckerberg told the media about the company’s virtual reality efforts. “Just instead of watching them on screen, you’ll feel like you’re there.”

“The problem today is that the liveliness of the screens we have now, compared to what your eye sees in the physical world, is off by an order of magnitude or more,” Zuckerberg said.

Over the past few years, Meta has regularly demonstrated its progress by working with virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses in front of partners and the press to encourage investors to find the project worthwhile and help hire highly paid VR developers and executives. and AR.

In these roundtable presentations, Meta regularly shows unfinished prototypes for use in research, which is unusual in consumer electronics. Gadget companies like to finish products and figure out how they will be made before talking to the press about them. For example, Apple, which works on its own headphones, never shows prototypes.

“These prototypes are custom and custom models that we’ve built in our lab, so they’re not ready-to-ship products,” Zuckerberg said.

Here are the prototypes he showed:

Buttery. Butterscotch is designed to test higher-resolution displays that have small enough pixels that the human eye cannot distinguish them. Butterscotch has developed a new meta lens that limits the field of view of the headphones, which makes it possible to present fine text and show increased realism.

However, Meta says the prototype was “nowhere near delivery” because of how heavy and bulky it is – plus, the prototype still has exposed boards.

Half Dome 3. Meta has been working on the Half Dome headphones since at least 2017 to test a type of display that can shift how far the focal point of the headset’s optics is. With Half Dome technology, Meta says, the resolution and image quality can be improved enough to allow users to create giant computer monitors in the headphones to work on. The latest version, 3, replaces mechanical parts with liquid crystal lenses.

Holocaust 2. Meta says that these are the thinnest and lightest VR headphones ever made, and that they are fully capable of running any VR software if connected to a computer. However, this requires specialized lasers, which are too expensive for consumer use and require additional precautions.

“In most VR headphones, the lenses are quite thick and need to be placed a few inches from the display to be able to properly focus and direct light directly into your eyes,” Zuckerberg said. The Holocake 2 Meta uses a flat holographic lens to reduce volume (in addition to lasers).

Starburst. Starburst is a research prototype focused on high dynamic range displays that are brighter and show a wider range of colors. Meta says HDR is the only technology that is most associated with extra realism and depth.

“The goal of all this work is to identify which technical pathways will allow us to improve meaningfully in ways that are beginning to approach the visual realism we need,” Zuckerberg said.

The mirror lake. Meta also showed a conceptual design called Mirror Lake for ski goggles. Mirror Lake is designed to combine all the different Meta headphone technologies it is developing into a next-generation display.

“The Mirror Lake concept is promising, but at the moment it’s just a concept without fully functional headphones that are still designed to prove architecture,” said Meta Reality Labs chief scientist Michael Abrash. “But if it does, it will change the game for the VR visual experience.”

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